Runoffs are the trench warfare of campaigning – dirty, messy and often hand-to-hand affairs.
This morning, Todd Rehm of GaPundit.com posted two confidential documents that appear to back up a charge made by former congressman Bob Barr, alleging 11th District rival Barry Loudermilk, a former state senator from Cassville, was involved in a racial discrimination complaint filed by a 61-year-old African-American woman who had served as his General Assembly secretary. She was fired in 2011.
The AJC's Jeremy Redmon has inquired with Melvin Everson, executive director of the state Commission on Equal Opportunity, who notes that the documents don't appear to be stamped an notarized.
But Ed Buckley, an attorney in the law firm that represented Ethel Blackmon, told Redmon that the paperwork is indeed authentic.
One document details the complaint of Ethel Blackmon. The other is a confidential settlement agreement awarding her $80,500 – on the condition that she was to keep quiet about all details of the award.
From the complaint filed by Blackmon with the EEOC:
XV. Mr. [Jason] Fleury [a human resources director] said he could not move me because there were no openings for administrative assistants and that he could not budget the funds to pay for both me and the new administrative assistant they were hiring to replace me (supporting Senator [William] Ligon and Loudermilk). Mr. Fleury told me it was my last day at the Senate.
XVI. I asked why I was not given the opportunity to correct any issues or concerns of Senator Ligon and Loudermilk. After all, I had successfully performed my job as an administrative assistant in the legislature over the course of five years supporting several other senators. At this point, because of budget week, I had only worked for the Senator Ligon and Senator Loudermilk for approximately three weeks.
XVII. Mr. Fleury responded – “just face it, you are not the face they want representing them to their constituency.”
XVIII. In response to Mr. Fleury’s statement about my face not being the face the senators wanted to present to their constituents, I asked directly if they were replacing me with a young white candidate. Mr. Fleury claimed the “leading candidate” was middle aged and African American. (I later learned that a young Caucasian woman was hired to replace me.)
From Loudermilk spokesman Dan McLagan:
"It's clear Barry had nothing to do with this -- didn't even know about the suit until after it was well over -- and personnel actions in the Senate are done by the Secretary of the Senate. Employee gets fired, sues the taxpayers and gets a payoff. It's a sad commentary on the system and a sadder commentary on Bob Barr and his character."
Another bit of trench warfare: Michael Williams is in a Republican runoff against state Sen. Jack Murphy (R-Cummings). On Wednesday, our attention was directed to this website, which includes links to several downloadable documents.
This one alleges that Williams absconded with $40,000 that wasn’t his to fuel a spree at a Biloxi, Miss., casino.
Ownership of the website is hidden. Murphy is being backed by the Georgia Coalition for Job Creation, a consortium of business groups and companies across the state.
“That’s the most ridiculous thing in the world. He never spent $40,000 at a casino. That’s completely false. They’re grasping at straws,” said Williams spokesman Seth Weathers, who said the accusation arises from an ex-wife and a bitter divorce. “Jack Murphy is the one with a history of fiscal irresponsibility.”
"This rings hollow and smacks of hypocrisy from a campaign almost wholly funded by out of state liberals and special interest groups that fly in the face of Georgia values like the pro-abortion group EMILYs List."
Nunn has so far raised just less than half of her money out of state, so "almost wholly funded" is a stretch. But if you look at the Kingston and Perdue campaign responses to Nunn, neither is saying "we won't sign the pledge." They wouldn't agree to it in the heat of the runoff, but we might see this pop up again in the general election. Both sides will have outside money flooding in -- and it's hard to say at this point who will have more to gain or lose by signing up.
But in the Republican runoff, the outside money is working in Kingston's favor: The U.S. Chamber's new ad -- which one of us caught running in Savannah last night during Braves postgame coverage -- has $779,000 behind it on TV and online.
That brings the Chamber's investment in Kingston to $2.33 million in the primary and runoff.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has waded into the GOP runoff for the First District congressional seat of U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, backing one of his state Senate's members -- Buddy Carter of Pooler. Cagle, in the press release:
“As a conservative voice in the State Senate, Buddy Carter has served his home district and the State of Georgia well. In the Senate, Buddy has been a vocal leader of projects such as the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. He has also sponsored and co-sponsored many conservative bills that promote growth and a job friendly environment here in Georgia. As your congressman, I know he will continue the great leadership that the First District has been accustomed to for the last twenty-two years.”
While Cagle is dipping his toe into the fight, don't expect Gov. Nathan Deal to do the same. Deal spokesman Brian Robinson confirmed to us that his boss is staying out of all July 22 runoffs.
State Sen. Jason Carter on Wednesday slammed Gov. Nathan Deal over his concerns about legislation that would legalize medical marijuana.
The governor said in Augusta on Tuesday that he was willing to work with lawmakers on a compromise but that he wouldn't support legislation that interferes with a pair of state-sanctioned clinical trials that could soon start.
Carter, who is challenging Deal in November, was quick to note that GOP infighting during the session's waning hours led to that legislation's failure.
Said the Democrat:
"If you talk to those parents, your heart will go out to them and you’ll want to do everything you can for them. When I’m governor, we will absolutely work to get these families the help they need. It's sad that the governor chose not to do more when he had the chance."
U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, was officially elevated Wednesday to head the Republican Study Committee on Wednesday. The RSC is the policy shop for the conservative wing of the House GOP, though more than half the conference formally belongs to the group.
Woodall takes over for U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who won the job of House majority whip during the recent leadership shakeup following Majority Leader Eric Cantor's shocking primary loss. Woodall is a caretaker, as he has agreed not to run next year for a full term in the post. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., has been laying the groundwork for a run for months, and others could join.
U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, ran against Scalise for RSC chair and lost at the end of 2012 -- in what was seen as a proxy battle of Boehner loyalists (Scalise) versus rabble-rousers (Graves). Graves has said he won't run again for the post.
Woodall said that he would not shake things up too much from the reign of Scalise, which some conservatives found too friendly toward leadership. Woodall's statement:
“It is both humbling and exciting to have the opportunity to lead this fantastic group of individuals committed to advancing conservative principles. Under Chairman Scalise’s leadership the RSC has continued championing the ideals we all share, and I am committed to preserving these values. It is an honor to serve in this capacity.”
Watch those Facebook buttons, kids. Republican Rick Allen took umbrage at the message posted to the right that appeared on the official Facebook page of his foe, Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta.
Barrow and other members of Congress keep separate campaign and official Facebook pages -- because it is against the law for campaign and official funds and duties to commingle. But that message, which was on Barrow's official page for a couple hours on Tuesday, directs clickers to Barrow's campaign site.
“Not only is Congressman Barrow violating House Ethics law, he is adding insult to injury by violating the law using hard earned Georgia taxpayer money. We have paid this man $1.36 million dollars to essentially be a staffer for President Obama and Nancy Pelosi and now he steals from us? It should offend all taxpayers in the district.”
Barrow spokesman Richard Carbo provided documentation that the promoted post was paid for out of the Barrow campaign's $2,000 Facebook budget. He said it was inadvertently posted to the Congressman's official page from 10:24 a.m. until 12:59 p.m. Tuesday, when it was taken down. The tab to the campaign: $3.86.
"It was an honest staff mistake that was immediately corrected. It was never charged to the taxpayers," Carbo said.
Like most members of Congress, Barrow has staff -- including Carbo -- who are paid by the taxpayers but do additional campaign work when they are off the government clock. Such folks would have access to both Facebook pages.
State Sen. Don Balfour may have lost his re-election primary May 20, but he’s got enough money in his campaign account to either plan a financially potent political comeback or help bankroll Republican races later this year.
Our colleague James Salzer reviewed Balfour’s June 30 campaign disclosure and found he still has $641,000 left in his campaign account. He spent about $130,000 between April 1 and the May 20 primary, quite a bit of money to finish third in a primary.
Balfour, who beat charges last year that he took state expense money that he didn’t earn, has always been one of the General Assembly’s biggest fundraisers, and many of the statehouse interests that bankrolled him in the past continued giving him money before the primary.
Under state law, Balfour can keep the campaign cash in case he runs for the Senate in the future, or give it away. With $640,000 – still among the largest campaign accounts in the General Assembly – he can probably afford to do a bit of both.
The bane of any reporter’s existence is the fact that not every word can be squeezed onto the printed page.
Fortunately, the Internet has no such limitations. Consider the following to be an outtake from Jeremy Redmon’s AJC piece on the literature of Jody Hice, a pastor and radio talk show host in a GOP runoff for the 10th District congressional seat of U.S. Rep. Paul Broun:
The Republican has also come under fire for some things he wrote about gays and same-sex marriage in his book.
In a chapter titled “Bigger Than Life,” Hice writes the “homosexual movement” is using anti-bullying proposals to protect itself while “aggressively seeking to destroy traditional families, religion and marriages.”
“By its very nature, homosexual behavior is destructive, although it is politically incorrect to say so,” he writes. “For us to buy into the erroneous assertion that homosexual behavior is natural and harmless will only reap devastating harm for an untold number of people who believe the lie and fall prey to its unavoidable consequences.”
And in arguing against same-sex marriage, Hice writes: “Some ask the question, ‘How does same-sex marriage threaten your marriage?’ The answer is similar to asking, ‘How does a trashy neighborhood affect you?’
Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality — an advocacy organization for gays and lesbians — said Hice’s comments are homophobic and inaccurate, including the assertion in his book that gays have shorter life spans.
“These are myths and stereotypes that frankly are not even worthy of debate anymore,” Graham said. “They have been proven by numerous studies to just be inaccurate. It is a bias and a stereotype against gay and transgender people that is frankly so far out of step with the thinking of where Georgians and the rest of the country are today.”
Hice responded to Graham’s criticism by repeating his support for traditional marriage.
“An important reason for marriage is procreation and the subsequent raising of those children,” he said. “The standard should always be what’s best for the children. Children should have the benefit of being raised by a loving mother and father. Strong families make strong communities.”
For the record, Hice’s opponent in the 10th District Republican primary runoff, Mike Collins, supports traditional marriage.
“Marriage is between one man and one woman,” he says on his campaign website. “The fact that we have to debate this basic fact is truly unfortunate. I will not negotiate on this position and will not support any legislation to the contrary.”